Tuesday, February 3, 2009

the more things change, the more they stay the same

As a result of blogging about my abortion and posting on some pro-choice and abortion support online bulletin boards, I have been corresponding with a few women. It has been an interesting contrast to this blog, which has a sort of “message in a bottle” feeling to it. The interaction particularly with other women who have had abortions has been incredibly valuable for me. The pro-choice discussion board is fascinating. We debate, often based on our own experiences, the contours of our pro-choice beliefs.

Having an abortion has changed everything and changed nothing for me. While I have always been pro choice and never supported restrictions such as parental/spousal notification, mandatory counseling, enforced waiting periods etc, having an abortion has made me reconsider each of these issues anew.

As a mother, seeing so many young women getting abortions alone was difficult. In fact the only time I cried in the clinic was when speaking to the counselor about how hard it was to process what I saw. Still, I myself at the age of forty, have not chosen to share my abortion with my parents. Who I am to presume that a younger woman has a better relationship with her parents? Sadly not all parents are good parents. I was heartened to see some young women with their mothers. I do hope that if my daughter ever needs an abortion she will decide to tell me, but I do not assume that every young woman has a kind supportive family at home. I have been working with college aged women for too long to harbor any such delusion. Given the realities of domestic violence, spousal notification is a total non-starter for me and never was an issue to which I gave any credence. The days of couveture are over!

As for mandatory counseling, while the counselor at my clinic was very nice, quite honestly I had already seen a psychologist and intend to continue seeing a psychologist. For some women, clergy counseling might prove more useful than psychological services. There are excellent anonymous hotlines that allow women other options particularly for women from cultural backgrounds where anonymity may facilitate a more open expression of emotion. Still other women may not need counseling at all. I think sometimes people say counseling when they mean someone to ask “are you sure you don’t want to continue this pregnancy or consider adoption.” If so, just have a nurse ask that or give the patient a form.

The experience of finding out I was pregnant to getting an abortion took twelve days. It was a positively surreal experience with most of the intense stuff happening in six days. I sometimes have the thought “I was pregnant. I am not pregnant anymore,” the same thought that went through my head after my miscarriage. I know myself well enough to understand that I am incorporating the experience into my psyche. Still it all happened so fast that the process is sort of mind blowing. Thankfully, I was firmly pro choice and had thought through all of the ramifications not only in the abstract, but in previous pregnancies. I do not feel like I decided too quickly. From a pragmatic point of view, with the limited number of abortion providers and the need to be at a certain gestation for a surgical abortion, a woman would not find out about her pregnancy and have an abortion the same day. I do wonder about medical abortions, which can take place the same day. I have to believe however that the benefits of enforced waiting periods, giving a woman time to think and process, are not outweighed by the potential hardships, such as more time off of work or school, or the extended travel due to lack of pharmacists or physicians who provide medical or surgical abortions in their areas.

Recently one of the women on the pro choice board asked what was so hard about my abortion if I was a pro choice. I knew the answer immediately, ending a potential life. I still find the argument for a traumatic syndrome associated de facto with abortion absurd. However, I can see that women who have to “work” their way around to choosing abortion (in violation of their religious teaching, philosophical or biological beliefs) or are pressured in to it, might suffer huge amounts of guilt, remorse, regret. I feel so sorry for those women and wonder how they ever reconcile the conflict between their choice and their beliefs. I know that I will live for the rest of my life with the knowledge that I chose to end a potential life. I am comfortable with my decision, but it was not a comfortable decision to have to make.

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